FDA Warns Chantix Users To Not Drink Alcohol

By McCarton Ackerman 03/12/15

Mixing booze with the anti-smoking drug can lead to "unusual behavior."

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The FDA has put out an official warning on the anti-smoking drug Chantix, stating that consuming alcohol while using the product can greatly intensify the effects of drinking.

The safety announcement published this week warned Chantix users that drinking alcohol while using it can lead to aggressive behavior and amnesia, in addition to “increased drunkenness” and “unusual behavior.” The twice-daily tablet has already carried one of the strongest warning labels possible since 2009, after some patients reported violent and even suicidal tendencies while using it. Pfizer, the makers of Chantix, will complete a study of the drug’s psychiatric effects later this year.

Luckily, a May 2012 study also suggested that Chantix could help users cut back on their drinking. The findings from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco showed that study participants who were given Chantix reduced their weekly alcohol consumption by an average of 36%. Lead author Jennifer Mitchell said the drug didn’t affect the frequency of alcohol consumption, but did lower how much participants drank once they started.

“If you currently drink seven drinks a night, and we can turn that into two or three, then you’re not only drinking at a level that’s going to harm you less, you’re less likely to harm others, as well,” she said. “If we could lower the rates of drunk driving, spousal and child abuse and other secondary effects of alcoholism, that would be tremendous.”

The psychiatric effects of Chantix also made headlines after a former Army soldier who stabbed a fellow recruit to death blamed the drug for his drive to kill. Army Pfc. George D.B. MacDonald was sentenced to life without parole after stabbing and slashing Rick Bulmer more than 50 times in 2008. However, he was granted a new trial last August after it was ruled that that the original trial judge should have told jurors that “involuntary intoxication” could be used as a defense in the case.

Last April, 65-year-old Tim Danielson blamed Chantix for causing him to shoot and kill his ex-wife Ming Qi in a fit of rage in June 2011. He pleaded not guilty and has since been awaiting trial.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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